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[159]

The surrender of Gen. R. E. Lee.

He did not offer his sword to General Grant.


During my sojourn at the Yellow Sulphur Springs, Virginia, last summer, as resident physician, I interviewed a number of our Southern people, both young and old, as well as a few Northern and Western people, as to whether General Robert E. Lee offered to surrender his sword to General U. S. Grant on the 9th day of April, 1865, at Appomattox, Va., and have been surprised to find that nine out of ten, including some old Confederate veterans, positively state that Lee did offer his sword to Grant, and that the latter was magnanimous enough to refuse it. The following, taken from the Confederate Veteran, Vol. VIII, May, 1990, page 204. J. F. J. Caldwell, of Greenwood, S. C., says:

I wish to call attention to the story of General Grant's refusal to accept the surrender of General Lee's sword at Appomattox, a story without a particle of foundation in fact and utterly unreasonable, yet widely circulated by Northern speakers and writers, and credited by a good many people in the South.

The account of the ceremonies attending the return of the flag of the Eighth Texas Cavalry, in the Veteran of December, 1899, reports Governor Sayers as saying: “And finally Appomattox came and General Lee surrendered; the great, heroic, magnanimous Grant refuses to take his sword.”

Colonel Charles Marshall, who was, I believe, the only officer accompanying General Lee on the occasion, has disclaimed that anything of the kind occurred.

Dr. J. William Jones, in “Personal Reminiscences of General Robert E. Lee,” at page 303, reports General Lee as making a similar statement during a conversation with a company of friends, as follows:

General Grant returned your sword, did he not?” asked [160] one of the company. The old hero straightened himself up and replied: “No, sir, he did not. I was determined that the side-arms of officers should be exempt by the terms of the surrender, and, of course, I did not offer him mine. All that was said about swords was that General Grant apologized to me for not having his own sword, saying that it had been taken off in his baggage, and he had been unable to get it in time.”

General John B. Gordon, in his Reminiscences of the Civil war, page 462, says, in speaking of General Grant:

In his ‘Memoirs’ he has given a quietus to that widely circulated romance that he returned to Lee his proffered sword. I do not doubt that he would have done so; but there was no occasion for Lee's offering it, because in the terms agreed upon it was stipulated that the Confederate officers retain their sidearms.

I have seen a Northern history in which Lee was represented as presenting his sword to Grant. Correct history is all we ask for — no prevaricating on either side. And I would ask that our young people especially be taught the truth of this matter.

Respectfully,

W. B. Conway, M. D., Late Corporal Co. C, 4th Va. Cav. Atlanta, Ga.

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